In August 1988, Naomi Campbell became the first black model to appear on the cover of French Vogue after designer Yves St. Laurent, a friend and mentor, threatened to withdraw his advertising from the magazine if it continued to refuse to place black models on its cover. Campbell recalls crying to the late, great Yves Saint Laurent, “They won’t give me a cover, “I saw the other girls asking for the cover and I said, ‘I want one too,’” – but the publication reportedly denied the request. The outraged, Laurent used his influence to make it happen. “He goes, ‘No, no, not even a question.’ Next I heard he was not going to put advertising (in the magazine).” It worked – “Next thing I was getting my cover.”
The following year, Naomi became the first black model graced the front of the U.S September magazine, the year’s biggest and most important issue. Vogue editor Anna Wintour said that Condé Nast executives were ‘stunned’ when she decided to put a black woman, Campbell on the cover. ‘For my very first September issue, I put Naomi Campbell on the cover,’ Anna remembers. ‘She was wearing this orange Anne Klein sequin suit – it would probably look incredibly ’80s today. And we have this meeting every month where we present the issue to the corporate floor, and I remember all the men in suits being absolutely stunned by the fact that I would put a black woman on the September cover of Vogue.
‘So, looking at this issue made me very proud I think of how far we’ve come and how much the world has changed and hat question would just simply not arise today.”